Screenshot_20180325-183017When it comes to flirting, the whole Harvey Weinstein debacle really seems to have chucked a spanner in the works for some dudes.

As the sleaziest men roam the streets, mourning the days where they could grab women by the pussy like the leader of free world, others are just confused. What if I’m being flirty and women perceive it as creepy? What if the world as we know it crumbles under our podgy feet and women start honking our saggy man boobs while we’re drunkenly dancing to an R Kelly remix?

Thanks to an increasing intolerance to dicksplat behaviour, overt displays of sexual harassment are being called out more than ever before. Confused or not, men are wisening up to the idea that it’s not a good idea to rub your banana hammock-clad crotch up against a woman’s bum at the bar if you want to leave with your knee caps arranged in the same way.

But in reality perverts and crappy men aren’t going away- they’ve just changed into better outfits and slapped nice guy stickers across their foreheads. Whether they’re bleating about how ‘unfair’ dating is or think grabbing a few glasses of wine is some sort of contractual agreement for a future nine hour shagathon, creepy nice guys are the new black.

Before last summer, I’d always dismissed these blokes as harmless little weirdos who still live their mum, play virtual Dungeons and Dragons on Saturday nights and spaff off into plant pots. But after a weird experience on social media last year, I’m starting to wonder if there’s more to it.

In July, a man who’d been following me on Twitter for a few weeks asked me out. It was a brazen request considering we’d had little prior chat, but I was going through my (incredibly brief) period of saying yes to everyone in the hope that I might expand my horizons and become less of a judgmental twat. (I didn’t obviously. In fact, I’m still thinking about developing a small but effective collection of weaponised bird shit to unleash on the next guy who thinks you spell definitely ‘definatley’.)

The man in question seemed pleasant enough, if a little over eager, but I politely declined a second date. I didn’t think he was overly creepy, but there was something odd about his demeanour- like someone had tried to clone a human being and slightly misjudged the whole project. He continued to send me direct messages, in the hope of meeting up as friends, none of which raised any alarm bells.

Then I noticed something weird. Although he never posted his own content on Twitter or Instagram he was an avid responder, following more than a thousand women (almost no men) and speaking to all of them as if they were a mate from the pub. It was like he’d read a manual on Twitter flirtations and it had all gone horribly wrong. None of these tweets (which mainly went unanswered) felt remotely organic. At first I put it down to a sad, slightly pervy way to try and get a girlfriend. And then I noticed the ages. Despite being nearly 40, this man was consistently tweeting the kind of cutesy teenage beauty bloggers who sell homemade sock bunnies on Etsy and buy lipsticks that smell like bubblegum and candyfloss. The average ages ranged from 16 to 24 and many of them were avid mental health bloggers, using social media to discuss anxiety and low self-esteem.

His messages, which popped up regularly in my feed due to algorithms, were not sinister, but it made my skin crawl to see this adult man repeatedly trying to engage with vulnerable women half his age, sending winky-faced compliments to little girls posing in tight dresses. One day, after he tweeted a teenager to reassure her about her upcoming school injections, I called him up on it. Perhaps he thought it was normal for a single, 40-year-old man to be contacting pretty school and college students he didn’t know? Perhaps he couldn’t see that it was wildly inappropriate or could be perceived as borderline grooming? The subsequent faux embarrassment and privatisation of his account made me realise he knew exactly what he was doing. I’ve since blocked him from my account.

The trouble is, he’s not the only guy justifying inappropriate behaviour with a veil of niceness. There’s plenty more lurking in the background, liking your empowerment posts, agreeing with your opinions to try and get in your knickers and generally presenting themselves as a hero to womankind. Social media seems to attract them in their droves, and I’ve lost track of the stories of women being sucked in by serial cheaters posing as socially liberal nice boys on Twitter. So the next time you’re tempted to give that ‘super nice guy’ a try, just make sure he isn’t a pervert in faux feminist clothing.